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The first question I have asked myself is what is education? Through research and my own opinion I have come to believe that education is not just about the children, it is about everyone. Education is also the curriculum, the pursuit of knowledge and gaining skills for your future life. It is not just about sitting in the classroom. It should go beyond the four walls of the classroom and should not be forced. Perhaps above all education is about teaching people how to think and how to question what they see and hear. In short, children need to be educated to live fully, not merely trained to perform a set of limited tasks.
Tony Blair declared on becoming prime minister in 1997 "education, education, education." He spoke to the nation that education was the top priority for his government, but even now the problems are manifold, among them failing schools and disruptive and obviously bored children.
Many philosophers including Woodhead (2002) see education as children being taught knowledge and facts and that it should be taught using the values from schooling in the 1950's. I believe these views to be short sighted on what education should be. However philosophers such as Illich (1970), Broudy (1988) and Froebel (1887) all believe in an education where children are not seen as empty vessels and that children learn best in an informal setting surrounded by creativity. These philosophers shall be looked at in more detail throughout this assignment.
Through this assignment I am going to concentrate on the past, present and the future of education, and how the past and the present have aided my views for education in the years to come.
What we need to know?
The aims of education have shifted over recent years. When I look back at my schooling the focus was topic work, now we are looking at structure - the literacy hour and the numeracy hour and an hour set aside for Science. Announcing radical new school curriculum changes, Mike Waters (Curriculum Authority) explained that "we live in a changing society- so the role and organisation of schooling will need to change too." He also went on to state that the skills young people will need are now very different from the needs of children in the late 1800s or even when a curriculum for the nation was established in the late 1980's.
Education and the Curriculum
To Test Or Not To Test?
Education should not in my opinion be about exams. Exams can cause worry amongst children from a very young age and this worrying does not need to happen. A year 6 pupil from Woodbury School in Essex believes that:
Exams give you a time limit in which to learn, which puts pressure on me and I end up not enjoying my learning."
Charles Dickens (1854) represented the horrors of education through the character of Mr Gradgrind in his book Hard Times. Gradgrind taught his children facts and attempted to diminish their creative sides. Anonymous (2007) believes that Gradgrind today represents the endless round of examinations that children are put through. He calls this "our 21st century version of Gradgrindism."
Though assessment should be done, this can be done without having to put children through rigorous exams such as SAT's and additional tests such as CATS, mock SAT's and sometimes even weekly knowledge tests. One philosopher who backs up what I believe about assessment and tests is that of Sizer (2005) who is often identified as a "liberal" in education debates. He sides with educational progressives in advocating an active role for children and also opposes using tests as the determinant of school quality.
The Cambridge Review calls for tests at the end of primary school- known as SAT's to be scrapped, and the review also criticised the testing system for making the curriculum too narrow. I agree that the curriculum is to narrow and that we should move away from this. For me I would like to see the curriculum being something that includes what children want to learn and is something that through the areas being studied children can expand on. As Sizer (2005) says "education should be a rich symphony, all kinds of instruments, tunes and trills." But instead it is "enthralled in the old ways, it only has one tune."
However the government dismiss this review on the grounds that the proposals are a "backward step" and that the world has "moved on" since the review was started.
Another criticism against the Cambridge review on education is that the report deals with the notion that you are either for or you are against testing. However on further inspection of the Cambridge Review I have noticed that the report wants to "sweep away" the current SAT's during year six in England- as has already happened in Wales. I agree with what the Cambridge Review mentions here as SAT's abolition in Wales has left children with less worries and less pressure when moving up to secondary school. Shuttermonkey (2009) wrote on a discussion board that teachers can make objective assessments based on children's performance over months of observations and not surmised in one exam. This was in regards to the abolishment of SATs tests. Oddly enough, when speaking to a series of teachers they believe that professional standards have not fallen, and that parents are still aware of child and school performances. (Nant Celyn Primary, 2009)
Indeed, the Cambridge Review's proposals would mean more testing, but in a form that covers the full range of the curriculum through assessment. This form would not bring high stake judgements for schools and the teacher, and that neither narrows the curriculum nor constrains teaching.
Looking Through and Beyond
Teaching should not just be about learning within the classroom. Through my time at university a great deal has been stressed on children not being confined to the four walls. I am a great believer in this, as education is not just about the classroom. According to Space and motions (2009) sitting in a classroom can be seen as unnatural, unhealthy and therefore should be limited. It is obvious that we did not evolve by sitting in a classroom; we evolved by being active, out and about, talking, watching and learning from other people. There should be no boundaries when it comes to teaching. Froebel (1887) was frustrated with education, as it was not connected to real life. This became a central theme in his educational thought. In the present day this "real life" learning has started to play a greater role in education- through the use of "using and applying" in mathematics for example, however, not to the great extent that I would like to see.
I particularly agree with Einstein as citied in Mayer & Holms (1996) that education has two central functions relating to the individual and their society.
i) To educate the individual as a free individual - To understand and use critical thinking skills for determining the Truth for themselves.
ii) To educate the individual as a part of Society - Virtually all our knowledge and possessions are produced by others in our society.
I also strongly agree with Einstein that education should be fun rather than forced - that force and punishment play no part in a good education.
Einstein's thoughts have shown me that children should be free to learn when they want, where they want. Teachers should be able to stretch the boundaries of education, taking learning outside to the real world when the option is available. What is the use of teaching a topic for example about rivers when children cannot go out and experience it for themselves? Illich's view on education is somewhat similar to Einstein's second central function in that he believes that most learning is informal. It is now recognised that when children enter school at the age of four, they bring with them a wealth of knowledge. They are not empty vessels as suggested by Friere as and Rousseau as citied in Mayer & Holms (1996)
Education should be about children, not just learning religiously from the Curriculum. It should also be about children learning what interests them. During my last teaching practice whilst teaching a lesson on science a child wanted to go more in depth into a particular topic. But due to the strict timings we have on the school day and timings of a lesson, we as teachers are sometimes unable to help that child further their learning. Because of this I would like to be able to set up a wiki page for the pupils within my class so that if a child wants to further their knowledge they can do so in their own time, outside the "four walls" of the classroom, with the help from family, class friends and the teacher. Therefore making learning fun for them rather than forced as well as educating the child within society.
All work and no play.......
Play is part of what education should be for due to the number of times I have witnessed "play" in action on work experience.
Play should be an important part of a child's education. As Broudy (1988) believes play is the highest level of a child's development. In his opinion it gives joy, freedom and inner and outer rest to children.
Play is what most of society perceive as "fun" for children. But educationalists see play as a form of education, where children learn in an environment that relaxes them. Fein (1981) believes the reason for this to be that if a child is "playing" then it cannot be work. Children see work as compulsory, where they are told to work on their own, quietly and the work is shown to the adult or teacher in the class. However play is seen by children as something they can do for "fun" with their friends. Although a teacher can constantly be assessing this "play" without a child realising.
There are no shortages of definitions and no shortage of writers who have put forward a theory of what constitutes play. Brue's book time to play in early childhood education (1991) gives various definitions of what play can be, including the recreation theory, excess energy theory, the recapitulation theory and the play as pleasure theory. I would like to implement the recreation theory and the practice or preparation theory within my teaching, due to observing these in action previously.
Recreation Theory: this consists of play being used as an award at the end of a period of work. The child can choose from a series of activities from their own free will. I have seen this implemented in a school where children choose the activity on a Friday afternoon. Activities range from computer games, arts and crafts to counting and shape patterns. All the games have an educational theme and are always linked to activities from that weeks lessons. However children do not realise they are "working" due to the environment and the class teacher can assess children without them realising.
Practice or preparation theory: this consists of children "being adults." Children feel like they are exploring the roles of people they know and love. This can be achieved through the use of a "home corner" which can change from an office, shop or even a hospital. There are countless innovations that can easily be achieved within the classroom. Whilst on teaching practice last year, I witnessed a home corner as a cinema, where children took on the roles of cashier, shop assistant and even a clerk. This is a constant source of opportunity for children to engage in activities which will prepare them for adult life.
Lessons can also be taught in a "play" way. In which teachers can change the lesson to have an artistic or creative focus. Through the use of arts and crafts children can engage in lessons that would otherwise have been made dull and boring for the children. Fein (1981) backs up the above as he believes that creativity releases pupils from the rigid constraints of a formalised scheme of work.
Whilst on my first teaching practise I witnessed this form of teaching. Admittedly this form was at first slightly confusing as to why the teacher taught this way, but after observing the lessons, I came to realise that children were a lot more engaged and willing to participate. An example of a lesson taught was that of History where children were looking at the Victorians. The teacher read the children a story and then the children went away to design Victorian dolls, which they had to design clothes for and write a story about the doll. Even though the children were designing dolls, boys were still taking part and every child came away with having learnt something of importance because of it. Broudy (1988) backs up what has been said by believing that creativity produces skills in the use of knowledge. His examples were of clay, wood and carving. But modern day examples would be, cutting, painting, sewing and weaving. Each has according to Broudy "its own purpose in accordance with the progress of the development of children's minds."
Froebel (1887) in his philosophy was influenced by Rousseau and Pestalozzi. He believed that children's freedom and individuality were achieved by following the eternal law of development rather than, as Rousseau argued, by protecting them from "unnatural" society. He believed that young children learn through their senses rather than through reasoning, therefore by teaching in a creative way children will learn and understand more of what is being taught.
However while some schools teach in a creative and artist way, most schools do not find the place for it within their teaching. While infant teachers quite commonly talk about the value of play, they frequently do not find a place for it within their teaching. (Pascal 1990) This could be because of a number of reasons including that of teachers not having or not making the time to gather the kind of observations that would give them the evidence they need to be convinced of the importance of play. Fisher (2002). Therefore when planning lessons teachers do not see the importance of play or creativity and therefore do not include it within their panning.
Trusting the Teacher?
Trusting the teacher seems to be at the back of everyone's mind when it comes to education. The teacher is controlled by the government and controlled by the curriculum in what to teach, how to teach and how to act. So in 2009, I say it is time to stop being obsessed with the shortcomings of 30 years ago. It is time, now, to trust the professional judgement of teachers again.
Summerhill School in Suffolk proves that teachers can have a say over children's education and that it is accepted within the community, although admittedly not by Ofsted. Bernstein (2000) believed that there is often a lack of connection between staff within education and the wider community (Lewison et al, p90) However this is not the case for the Summerhill school.
Summerhill School in an influential model for progressive, democratic education around the world.
A S Neill. Founder of Summerhill School
Today many educationalist and families are becoming uneasy with the restrictive environment that is education, through the curriculum, timings of lessons and even through examinations. Many parents are now looking towards the idea of "free schooling" like that of Summerhill, which are expanding throughout the world.
Some children from Summerhill in 2009 left with the opinions that freedom was the most valuable thing they took away with them, they were not prejudiced against teachers and they were more mature within their attitudes towards learning, because even though they did not have to go to lessons, they wanted to. These children's views can be seen by what Bernstein, as citied in Mayer & Holms (1996) wanted from education, that of, children to be included socially, intellectually, culturally and personally. Most schools within the United Kingdom do this, however, not to the extent of Summerhill due to the level of freedom of the children.
Teachers within this school are able to have a say in what is being taught and are able to listen to what the children would like to learn without being governed by the curriculum. Thus children are happier and the staff do not have to use "adult authority" to impose values and solve problems, as the children have the respect for the teachers that they deserve. Einstein also agrees that teachers should not have need to use "adult authority".
To me the worst thing seems to be for a school principally to work with methods of fear, force and artificial authority. Such treatment destroys the sound sentiments, the sincerity, and the self-confidence of the pupil.
Einstein (cited in Mayer, J & Holms, J, 1996)
Other philosophers who have the same beliefs as Einstein include Russell (1926) who mentions that creating children that are free from fear so that they have freedom to learn can allow them to embark on discovery and adventure. His view on how education should be taught is on the same wavelength as current issues in education such as the Rose Review and the new curriculum.
This school is at one end of the spectrum where there is no ruling over the National Curriculum, whereas our "main schooling" society today is at the opposite end of that spectrum. I would like to see a compromise between the two opposite ends. My perfect idea of education would be right down the middle where teachers are not governed by the ideas of education from the government but can work as a school to find their "own curriculum". By this I mean that schools work together to achieve what is needed from the curriculum but without the strict guidelines of one hour for literacy, one hour for numeracy etc. Teachers will have the free reign to "hit" the curriculum in their own time, in their own way, choosing what is best for the children in their class. Thus, hopefully, gaining respect from the pupils which sadly has been lost within society today.
However that does not mean that the government should not have any say in the aims and purpose of primary education but like Baker (2009) states that details of the teaching methods, classroom organisation and curriculum should be for teachers.
Education has improved greatly over time, from working with chalk and blackboard to being surrounded by interactive whiteboards and laptops. Children in this day and age now need, as well as to read and write, to be able to use a computer effectively and recognise the ever changing technologies available to them. The school environment has moved on in my opinion from a working environment through to a technological environment. User generated content is becoming the new learning medium, through the use of Wikipedia, there is vast becoming a new world of work- using hand held computers and IPods to get our messages across. Children no longer carry a pen and paper with them; computers are being carried instead of.
Children of today do not think about using technology, it is integrated into their everyday life. Children are now digital natives. The will be immersed into technology, therefore they do not know any different.
From Writing to Typing
Technology has become so vast within our education system as well as our society that makes me think about whether we should be teaching children Literacy within the use of pronouns, nouns and adjectives or should we be moving ahead and teaching children technical vocabulary as this is where the world is possibly going to end up.... being ruled by technology?
Writing for me has changed dramatically over the years. When in school, writing was of major importance- practising handwriting skills, letter formation and joined up handwriting. Now however, the stress is no longer on neat, joined up handwriting nor is it on spelling. When on my last teaching practice, I came to realise that children no longer have a designated "handwriting" lesson, nor do they get criticised for not writing with joined up handwriting. This shows, even if it is far off, that technology is influencing the way we communicate. I no longer type an email to someone, I write an email. For someone who is technologically literate this is no longer seen as a different form of communication from that of writing a letter.
Writing has now become a skill that is needed to be taught, not just through pen to paper, but through using a keyboard, using an iPod with notepad and even using "slate" PC's, which are soon to be released.
Trotter, (2009) states that teaching literacy through reading and writing is a core mission for schools, but today's young people increasingly "read" 3-D computer simulations and "write" via social networking sites such as Facebook. According to Trotter a growing number of experts believe that schools should add these forms of communication to their literacy mission as "technology literacy". Wheeler (2009) calls these social networking sites "digital totems" and believes that schools should acknowledge the power of them.
Ahead of the game
Technology gives us opportunities to work individually and collaboratively as well as to receive feedback instantly, to be able to create works and exhibit them without necessarily having to spend years learning skills. Education should be about allowing children to have their chances at publishing work and to get their voices heard throughout the community if not further. Through the use of podcasting for budding radio broadcasters, the school website for children's work and even using websites to broadcast children's poems and art work, for not only the community but for the whole population to see. Prensky (2008) an innovator of 21st Century learning reinvented the learning process, by "combining the motivation of video games with the driest content of education." Through this, teachers are able to gain the interest of the children during lessons, making education interesting, fun and motivating children to learn. The IMPACT Report (2007) states that the use of the internet is providing a way for new technologies to further extend the opportunities for learning beyond the school. Many of the webs innovations have been commercially driven: You Tube and Fan Fiction for example. But there are also others with direct relevance to the classroom such as Google maps and Google Earth. These technologies have been around for a short period of time within classrooms but already there is a movement to produce bigger and better things. China School Number 50 in Beijing for example are training children up with the use of 4D technologies that will help children to learn to become for example bankers and chamber maids. Children are being trained in key skills for jobs that will be needed in the future for China- in preparation for "up and coming ventures" according to the Chinese Government.
Education 3.0 talks about the rate in which technology is developing. We as teachers need to remember that technology is ever changing and that if we do not keep up with "the change" then we will get "bogged down" and lost, unable to catch up. We are living in "exponential times" according to Fisch (2009). The number of internet devices are ever increasing at a rapid pace from 1984 where 1,000 internet devices were available to 2008 where over 1,000,000,000 are available.
What we have to remember as teachers, as well as the rate in which technology is developing, is that we need to be preparing children for jobs that do not yet exist- using technologies that have not yet been invented in order to solve problems we do not even know are problems yet. (Shift Happens: 2007) By this Moravec (2009) believes that we need to embrace the change rather than fight it. In his opinion schools may become the driving force of creating "new paradigms" that will drive this and future centuries. Moreover, rather than trying to catch up with the change, he believes that schools should "leapfrog" ahead to the adoptions of new technologies and practices.
Therefore it is imperative that we address the issues on how this technology is used. Through my personal experience on teaching practice I have seen SMART Boards go unused, teachers giving lessons using PowerPoint and even showing a clip on You Tube. The technology is there but it is unfortunately not being used effectively. All this is education 1.0 according to Bill, (2009). He believes that these technologies are just updated chalkboards and film clips and that teachers need help to understand how and why we must move to an education 3.0 model. This is where education becomes not just part of the pupil but also part of the teacher. Prensky (2008) suggests that we must step out of our comfort zones and embrace new ideas. If we do not do this then technology will out run us.
Education should be about training the teacher in the relevant resources and technologies needed in order to make sure that our students do not lose interest and most importantly are not left behind. The philosopher Bernstein's third right is the right to individual enhancement. His right backs up the point I have given above in that children are to gain critical understanding and need to gain new possibilities within their learning. If children and teachers do not have the confidence, then this right cannot be carried out.
Although the focus of this section is on new technology, there is not enough thinking about how to apply these new resources. It is one thing to have the equipment but another to use it creatively.
As I am an ICT specialist, I may be more embracing of this technology however this does not mean that I am embracing of it to come into the classroom right away. Technology is not the be all and end all however it is how we use it effectively within the classroom that will aid children's learning and our classroom teaching within education.
Through this assignment I believe I have found that the education system that we have at present is one that no longer accommodates the needs and wants of our children, the future generation. Due to the ever increasing technology that is available to our schools, it is interesting to notice that this technology is not being used to its full potential. I shall be taking with me into my teaching the want to delve deeply into the use of ICT within the classroom, as well as the drive to implement these ICT technologies effectively and purposefully within not only my classroom but the whole school. Through this, not only will the children benefit, but the teaching staff and also the community will benefit from this too.
From what I have covered throughout this assignment, education should be about allowing children to learn through self discovery, expressing their creativity and not to be stifled by the endless amounts of examinations and tests brought upon them.
It should also be about teachers stretching the boundaries during lessons, to not being tied down and hidden behind the four walls of the classroom. Technology can take you away from those four walls- through the use of web cams, and the internet, so why not use it? Trust should be put back into the classroom, trust of the teacher to choose what is best for the children within their class, and trust for the pupils, who without a free reign will never get far in life.